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Jessica Watson OAM

"Jessica Watson left Sydney in 2009 as an unknown 16-year-old attempting an extraordinary solo, unassisted voyage round the world.  She returned seven months later, to a hero’s welcome after capturing the imagination of a nation."

This was the 16-year-old who set off on an extraordinary voyage, farewelled by only a handful of boats off Sydney Heads in late 2009.

Just before her 17th birthday, 210 days later, she returned to a hero’s welcome, international headlines and a Sydney Harbour packed with well-wishers.

Jessica Watson’s attempt at a solo, unassisted circumnavigation of the world at just 16 captured the imagination of everyone – sailors and non-sailors alike.

The challenges of planning and preparing for her adventure were only the start; she had then to survive it. Her story included terrifying knockdowns at sea, appalling weather and the unpredictable vagaries of homesickness. Sceptics and critics stood duly corrected; her success has inspired a generation to pursue their dreams and reach for the extraordinary.

Watson’s journey has undoubtedly drawn more young people to sailing, including Tokyo Olympian Mara Stransky.

‘Jess was from a similar area in Australia and I just like her can-do attitude,’ Stransky said. ‘She was a young girl doing things that people said she couldn’t do, and I really admired that.’

In the wake of her journey, in which she sailed under the four capes and crossed the equator twice, Watson was awarded an Order of Australia Medal and named Young Australian of the Year. She has gone on to be a best-selling author, a Youth Representative for The United Nations World Food Programme, a motivational speaker and businesswoman, and has also completed her MBA.